Maybe I just needed to get north of 40 years old to achieve my "old man yells at clouds" moment, but it's arrived.
I've held out for years. For a long time, when I heard people say "ban the shift" my response was that hitters should adjust and the beauty of baseball was that the defense wasn't required to stay in specific spots. It was actually at the 2018 All-Star Game when Jed Lowrie convinced me that infielders shouldn't be in the middle of the outfield.
Now? The 2020 season has convinced me that Major League Baseball needs to do something to essentially ban the shift. Here's why.
Though it's been rising in recent weeks, the batting average this season is .245. Think about that at the surface level. If you see a player hitting .248, what's your initial reaction? We've grown accustomed to thinking that's bad, but it's actually above average this year. This is the lowest league batting average since 1972, the year that led to the implementation of the designated hitter. The only other lower batting averages in history are from the 1800s, the Deadball Era, 1967 and 1968. The latter two led to the mound being lowered. We absolutely have a batting average problem.
Yes, part of this is the strikeout rate exploding, but in watching games, part of that is the defense seemingly being in the exact right spot on most of the groundballs and line drives that don't leave the yard ...
Balls in play/Scouting
The batting average on balls in play (.291) isn't excessively low by historical standards, though it is currently the lowest since 1992. The problem is teaming the continual rise in strikeout rate -- the strikeout percentage, league-wide, is the highest ever for the 13th(!) consecutive season -- with the low BABIP, we get so little on-field traffic.